Discussing the recent controversial razor-thin results of the Taiwanese elections in a speech entitled ‘The 2004 Election and Beyond: Taiwan Politics and the Implications for United States-China Relations,’ Tang Fei, former premier of Taiwan, addressed a large audience in the Crystal Cove Auditorium on May 6.
The event was sponsored by the Center for Asian-American Studies and the School of Social Sciences as the inaugural Wan-Lin Kiang Lecture. Tang spoke in Mandarin which was then translated into English by Kuo Tai-Chun, former press secretary to the president of Taiwan.
Tang Fei served as minister of national defense before being appointed premier of Taiwan. Tang is now a senior advisor for Chen Shui-Bian, president of the Democratic Progressive Party, as well as a visiting scholar with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Taiwan has been in the throes of political turmoil since March. Incumbent President Chen Shui-Bian ran against Kuomintang Party candidate Lien Chan and won by a 0.2 percent margin. Taiwanese legislation does not stipulate that a recount must occur unless the margin is below 0.1 percent.
Still, over half-a-million protesters demanding a nullification of the election results crowded onto the streets of Taiwan’s capital in Taipei, rendering the island’s capital inoperable for 10 days.
According to Tang, the Democratic Progressive Party has been an ineffective government for Taiwan because it is a young political party with too many ambitions and without sufficient experience.
‘[It was] virtually impossible for a smooth transfer of power between the two parties,’ Tang said. ‘The Democratic Progressive Party was reluctant to consult the opinions of other legislators, oftentimes resulting in the outbreak of actual fights in Congress.’
Tang proposes that Taiwan’s relationship with the United States, the cornerstone of Taiwanese economy as well as defense against China since the 1950s, will be in danger should President Chen continue to push for Taiwanese independence from China.
‘President Chen’s attempts at changing the status quo in Taiwan have already greatly deteriorated his reputation and believability as many are growing increasingly disappointed in Taiwan’s democracy,’ Tang said.
Nevertheless, Tang also admits that while many are still skeptical of the presidential victory, it might not be as improbable as it may seem to Kuomintang supporters.
‘There has not been any considerable change in the Kuomintang Party these past four years,’ Tang said. ‘What the Kuomintang did not take into consideration was the growing nationalism of the Taiwanese people and their needs for new reform within the government.’
Though nothing innovative was suggested by Tang to resolve the problems among Taiwan and China, he expressed the need for a new approach to appease both sides of the strait. Mostly, he advocated more patience with China.
‘Set aside these political issues for the next generation to solve … let these political issues be solved by time,’ Tang said.
Daniel Nieh, a first-year English major, left the event unsatisfied.
‘As [part of the Kuomintang Party], Tang fulfilled his partisanship duties,’ Nieh said. ‘But as an academic guest speaker, he offered little elaboration on resolving the election conflict and current cross-strait relations only to focus more on why the Democratic Progressive Party is flawed.’
However, Chris Yen, a first-year electrical engineering major, agreed with parts of Tang’s speech, specifically with Tang’s approach to Taiwanese independence.
‘Taiwan is de facto independent. Unification is an issue for the future, not of the present,’ Yen said.